Few climb aboard for Ride the Bus Day

The Augusta Bus Riders Association drew a slim crowd to a meeting Monday at a Washington Road Kmart aimed at exposing the daily struggles of those who depend on public transportation.

Five people, including association members, showed up for Ride the Bus Day. The group’s coordinator, Geraldine Wilson, said she believes many people misunderstood the event, which was to have residents who generally do not ride the bus to rely on public transportation to get to and from the meeting at the store. The association also wanted to collect information from those riders to present to city commissioners in hopes of improving the system.

Many would-be participants were confused and thought they were to meet the group outside Kmart at noon, Wilson contended, saying that would have been only half of the experience.

Despite the low turnout, the association’s members made their struggles and hopes for the transit system known.

“The Augusta public transit system and our city commissioners are not trying to make it easy for their citizens. We feel greatly disadvantaged and put upon,” Wilson said. ”If you don’t plan your trip properly, your entire day is going to be wasted.”

The city’s transit system, which has nine fixed routes, is operated by a private company, Mobility Transit. The company has had issues since taking over the city’s bus system Aug. 1, including complaints that it failed to timely report accidents and was chronically late paying vendors.

Annette McKie, a member of the association, said the system could improve in almost every area.

“Let’s be able to get on the bus earlier in the day. Let there be two buses per route, so you don’t have to wait an hour and 40 minutes between stops,” McKie said. “If you’ve got one bus going down a route, you should have another coming up. Let’s have them drive a little bit later at night, because if you ain’t on somebody’s bus by 5:30. you’re out of luck. You better have somebody’s number you can call to get a ride or you better get some good shoes on.”

Sister Mary Griffin, a Catholic nun and association member who said she rides the bus three or four times a week, was unhappy with the number of buses per route and the distance between stops. To get to the noon meeting, Griffin said she had to board her first bus on Walton Way at 10:10, then take another at 10:30 to make the meeting on time.

Griffin said the time gap between buses at a particular stop, sometimes longer than 21/2 hours, means planning her day around when she can get on a bus.

“Every day, this is what we have to put up with,” Wilson said. “Good days, we’re out here; bad days, we’re out here. We’re just trying to get the general population to see what we go through on a regular basis.”

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